Ethics a challenge for officials

“Politicians and their cohorts are dangerous because you never know what their real motivations are,” said current Fayette County Commissioner Jack Smith at a recent political forum. He’s running for re-election and is being challenged by Steve Brown, who is well known for his strong stand on ethics.

I found Smith’s statement interesting for a couple of reasons. First, Smith is on the board of a local bank which works primarily with developers who obviously are in favor of the West and East Fayetteville bypass projects.

As has been pointed out by many people, the location of the newly constructed schools that are “out in the middle of nowhere” actually are somewhere — it just wasn’t obvious to the rest of us that the schools are right in line with these bypass projects.

Secondly, school board hopeful Charlie Cave (running against Dr. Bob Todd, a respected educator and critic of less than honest decisions) was the business development manager for another local bank that works with developers.

Even to a casual observer, the potential conflicts of interest for both Smith and Cave are obvious.

Having been a resident of Fayette County for nearly 10 years has opened my eyes to the way business is done in a small community. While I understand and recognize the associations that have been forged by families and business dealings over a long period of time, it is simply wrong to ignore the taxpayers to further business interests.

The bypass projects are but one glaring example of our tax money being used to build infrastructure to further development interests. The insistence of some school board members that the schools were being built where they were needed — clearly not true — is yet another.

But the distorted view of what’s ethical extends into several other areas. Let’s revisit some other examples of what I will call — in an effort not to be ugly — “ethical oversights.”

• A mayor goes into business with a city manager.

• A school board member sits in on real estate discussions involving a family member and forgets to disclose millions of dollars in corporate holdings and property.

• A school board member’s adult child teaches in the system without certification at a time when other qualified teachers have either lost their jobs or cannot get positions for which they are qualified.

• Elected officials accept hospitality during a trip outside of the U.S. and then vote on concessions for the hosting company that is relocating to the area.

• A county commissioner is caught breaking the law by driving with an illegal drug and is still in office.

Does this sound like a bad reality TV show?

Open meetings and open records — which must uphold laws that are not open to interpretation — are yet another issue that taxpayers find is an uphill battle.

It is standard operating procedure in our community to run into multiple roadblocks when open records requests are filed (some of you may recall my nearly $3,000 quote for open records from the school board attorney) as is the use of executive session to keep the public in the dark.

A case in point is an executive session from Aug. 1, 2007 that County Commissioner Eric Maxwell (who is being challenged by Allan McCarty in the July 20 primary) was asked to explain. He called the session to discuss a legal matter, but there was not an attorney present.

State Attorney General Baker ruled the private assembly ordered by Maxwell was illegal.

At the next month’s meeting, Maxwell moved to alter the minutes and affidavit on the executive session that stated the illegal reason for meeting. The commissioners voted to permanently alter the record.

But someone caught the motion and vote on videotape and posted it to YouTube. This is not the first time a citizen has videotaped and posted public meetings to bring poor and unethical behavior of elected officials to light. Janet Smola’s “Is that what you want Marion” video on YouTube has nearly 800 hits.

What exactly does this mean when citizens are so angry that they resort to videotaping arrogant actions by elected officials? It means that we are frustrated and fed up with our community being run for the benefit of a few.

Early voting has started for the July 20 primary. Because we don’t have opposition to the Republican candidates in any of the races except for one school board post, whoever wins the primary automatically wins the race.

It is crucial that we all vote for the ethical candidates. If we don’t, our tax dollars will continue to be squandered on development projects, and we will be kept in the dark by seemingly powerful public officials who say they are ethical but whose actions favor a few people at the expense of the rest of us.

The website electfayette.pbworks.com has information on the local elections. As the candidates set up online sites, these will be added. Links to various parties and community issues are also available.

I hope to see everyone turn out for this important primary election. Let’s restore our hope in honest government by electing people who actually act on their convictions and represent the community’s interests.

Tami Morris

Peachtree City, Ga.

pips1414
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Smith Is Now On the Ropes

Jack Smith is desperately trying to defend his unyielding positions on rapid rail transit and the bypass. All you have to do is read the full page ad he took out in the other newspaper to see this.

Spear Road Guy
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Reoccurring Theme: You Can't Trust Jack Smith

Denise, I agree with you.

Go through these letters on file and you'll see Smith is constantly named as someone violating the ethical code like the free international trip from the company he gave the tax breaks or caught in a lie.

This vote should be a no brainer.

Denise Ognio
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Ethical Conduct an issue for Smith and Brown!

Has Fayette Citizens just let lack of Ethics slip under the table or are we going to take action and vote to get the right people in office? Jack Smith recently gave substantial tax breaks and monetary incentives to China's Sany Corp, THEN accepted an expensive and lavish week0long stay in China-courtesy of the same corporation...It was a clear violation of the state Code of Ethics to go and accept top-rated lodging, meals, entertainment and tours of the Chinese Countryside. Places like Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, a tour of the Olympic Stadiums, the Great Wall, the orbidden City and the Shanghai Pearl Tower...You call that ETHICAL CONDUCT? No!
After being elected to the county commission, Jack Smith accepted an appointment to the board of directors of the Bank of Ga...Smith was in clear conflict of commission duties! First, Smith is on the board of a local bank which works primarily with developers who obviously are in favor of the West and East Fayetteville bypass projects.
The public and press have no right to observe such meetings???????? We have TRULY been sleeping! We need a new person in office and GET SMITH OUT!
Maxwell stated, "My career plans have always been to be a judge"....Well, that's good to know that your true heart isn't here..but elsewhere. Watch the video folks on TBFC.com...Maxwell states in the video he basically dreams of being a judge...It certainly appears as though Maxwell is playing both ends against the middle!
Put McCarty and Brown in! We need to Take Fayette County back to a place in time where the interest of the people come first and not what the developers can do for the one in office. We don't need someone in office who'd rather be a judge! We need Smith and Maxwell out and McCarty and Brown voted in on July 20th!

survivor33
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WOW- bunch of crooks, huh?

This letter ought to get you blocked---even with a name!

inquiringmind
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really?

So it is apparently all right for the ethics of anyone other than the sheriff's office to be questioned? Do you work for them?

inquiringmind
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And don't forget Wayne Hannah

...who "repaid" the campaign contributions made by a certain local bank/real estate bigwig by ordering that sheriff's department destroy all information (incident reports, breathalyzer results, etc.) gathered when said bigwig's wife was waltzed into FayCoJail recently....

mbest
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Is that really true about Hannah cause that's

a pretty serious allegation. I'm no big Hannah fan but your accusation is full of vague ineundo. What "certain local bank bigwig" are talking about. Do like Scott Ballard, give full detailed disclosure of what you know and when you knew it. Your not using your real name so if it's true why be so vague? Makes it seem to lack credibility.

inquiringmind
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Unfortunately it is true...

This has been bothering me since April 14, when I personally witnessed the incident. I am not a public official and do not have the cover of office to protect me from potential overzealous reaction on the part of Hannah and those of his staff who might not be suited for their positions. (This is not intended as a slap at all of the FCSD; there are many fine officers there.) So - what does one do in this situation - go completely public and run the risk of retribution?

inquiringmind
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So - perhaps the answer is to go to the press...

All right, Fayette County reporters, will you maintain confidentiality of a source? If so, let me know how to contact you and I will provide names, times, quotes and a full description of the actions of the evening of April 14, 2010.

inkslinger
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Please Tell Me She Wasn't at

WaterLace doin' the deed, too????

inquiringmind
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??

I think you're referring to the English mess, right? No, not there and not that incident. Am still hopeful, though, that one of the ace reporters will let me know via this thread how to provide them with the details confidentially.

suggarfoot
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Tami Morris always awesome!

"• A school board member sits in on real estate discussions involving a family member and forgets to disclose millions of dollars in corporate holdings and property."

and forgets she's the corporate secetary for the husband's development company?

yeah, the opps defense!

"• A school board member’s adult child teaches in the system without certification at a time when other qualified teachers have either lost their jobs or cannot get positions for which they are qualified."

Now after everyone threw such a fit, junior is qualified..but the injustice to teachers that deserved that job...and now the cute little ruling..you can't roll someone..in other words, if junior was strategically placed, (count on it),he can't be rolled by a 20+ year REAL teacher..That was so disrespectful to the people that played by the rules...(non of which included, said person, nor junior).

"• A county commissioner is caught breaking the law by driving with an illegal drug and is still in office."

Lord some just love that wacky-tobac-ie..did they smoke that when they made decisions involving us?

"A case in point is an executive session from Aug. 1, 2007 that County Commissioner Eric Maxwell (who is being challenged by Allan McCarty in the July 20 primary) was asked to explain. He called the session to discuss a legal matter, but there was not an attorney present.

State Attorney General Baker ruled the private assembly ordered by Maxwell was illegal."

And they got...ALL.. their butts on video tape voting..it's ok? You gotta be kidding!!!

how about we elect 4 new commissioners? and 3 new BOE? sounds good to me!

Just Asking
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Terri Smith's ethics lapse

Well, along with all the other lapses in ethical judgement pointed out in this letter, shall we now add Terri's Smith's "I didn't know" defense for "forgetting" to ask her husband if he had any business interests when she answered the financial disclosure of family members question?

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